My husband grew up watching The Waltons; born in 1965, he was 13 years old when the seventh season aired in 1978 – 1979. I, on the other hand, was born shortly after the conclusion of the seventh season. The Waltons ran for nine seasons as an American “staple” in the television diet. With Warner Bros. releasing these complete series collections, even those of us who missed out on the original airings and subsequent re-runs can come to know the Walton family. The seventh season, consisting of 24 episodes, was released on April 29, 2008; you can own it on DVD.
The season opens with the sad news of Grandpa’s death. Actor Will Greer who portrayed Zebulon "Grandpa" Walton passed away due to respiratory failure in the spring of 1978. John-Boy is overseas and missing throughout the entire season, much to my husband’s disappointment, though he does continue to provide narration for each episode. Grandma Esther Walton returned from her time of recovery after her stroke in mid-1978. Actress Ellen Corby suffered a stroke, which was written into the storyline, and Grandma continues to struggle with mobility and language difficulties while proving to be a bastion of emotional stability for her family. Mary Ellen is living at home with her infant son John Curtis while she plans and prepares to join her husband in his medical profession within the army. All of the other Walton children are living at home throughout the season as well.
It is into this setting that we find the Walton family struggling to deal with the onset of World War II and additional changes within their own family. Viewers may recall happier, lighter days for the Walton family, and indeed some fairly gritty and at times controversial themes are dealt with for family programming. With the maturation of the Walton children some difficult themes emerge throughout the episodes: youthful romance, war trauma, moonshine, racial segregation, workplace impropriety, military service, psychic phenomena and more. Some episodes may not be appropriate for a viewing audience including young children despite the family focus of the series.
Despite, or perhaps due to, the escalating pressures the family experiences, the warm love and unconditional support they feel for each other is evident in each episode. Time and time again family members encounter difficulty and hard times. Whether it is Grandma reminding the family to pray, Olivia’s constant love and support, John’s words of wisdom or a sibling’s advice, the family clings together and emerge strengthened by their difficulties.
After watching this series our family feels that we have come to know the Waltons personally – each character is distinct in our minds. My oldest daughter’s favourites are Jason and Elizabeth. I admire Olivia and her relentless dedication to meeting the domestic and emotional needs of her family while maintaining a loving relationship with her husband. My husband’s old-time favourite, John-Boy is unfortunately missing from this season. Indeed the members of the Walton family have embedded themselves into our family’s vocabulary and we find ourselves discussing them from time to time.
Unlike most modern sitcoms and television drama The Waltons is refreshingly free of most offensive language. The children generally love, respect, and obey their parents, who do unarguably provide them with a large degree of freedom. The family’s faith, while subtle, weaves its way throughout the storyline. Each meal is attended with the mandatory blessing on the food, Jim-Bob aspires to the ministry for a short time, and Olivia’s concern for her husband’s spiritual well being is expressed. It is Grandma Walton who seems to be the anchor of the family faith throughout the series. Whenever difficulties arise she is quick to remind the family to pray, pray, and pray again.
No film or television series from the ‘70s would be complete without a few requisite scenes of motor vehicles “driving” in front of a movie screen that provides the background images. The seventh series of The Waltons doesn’t let us down in this respect, but it does also provide some authentic footage of vehicles driving outdoors as well. Costuming is fairly authentic and accurate for the ‘40s with knee-length dresses all around for the ladies for the most part – another refreshing change of pace from modern programming. Ben however does look a bit too ‘70s for the time period, with wider lapels on his denim jacket and shirts and the top few buttons of his shirt always open. All of the other male Waltons are believably attired in plaid shirts, overalls, and jeans for the most part, though a suit does surprise us from time to time.
Long time fans will appreciate the trip back to Walton's Mountain. While there is great change throughout the season, some things always remain the same: family togetherness, love, warm support, and faith.
The seventh season is presented on three, double-sided DVDs. English closed-captioning is provided. There are no other special features present, but the DVDs are jam-packed with The Waltons episodes, 1148 minutes worth.
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